What Exactly Is The Gospel? (Part One)

Dear Mr. Lough:

You have referred several times to evangelical Christianity in this exchange of emails. You’ve made it clear that, although evangelicalism was the context for your early Christian formation, you no longer share some of the movement’s foundational presuppositions. In your last letter, however, you said something I had not heard before, and it raised a question I’d like to pursue.

You wrote, “Despite my belief that evangelicalism has lost its way and is flailing around in a confused state of self-misperception, I pray for the movement’s recovery of the gospel of the kingdom.” Could you say a bit more about that? Continue reading

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A New Direction in Simple, Practical Faith

Have you ever noticed that, when you first identify with a new group and adopt its beliefs and tenets as your own, the members of that group commend you for your wisdom and discernment? Later, when your experience and careful consideration lead you to change 1your mind about one or more elements of the group’s shared beliefs, you are regarded as having somehow lost your ability to be wise and discerning. Instead, you have apparently succumbed to influences that have led you into error.

Or, as a friend of mine put it, “I was a prophet right up to the moment I became a heretic.” Continue reading

My Changing View of God

I am grateful for my upbringing in evangelical Christianity, but there is a major weakness in that tradition. The evangelical emphasis on systematic theology leads to an unwarranted, if mainly sub-conscious, assumption. I grew up believing that I could comprehend God.

When we approach the idea of God as a subject to be studied much like any other academic discipline, and when we look to the Bible as a comprehensive theological textbook made up mainly of propositional assertions that define and describe God, we can come to the conclusion that we actually understand who God really is and how and why God acts in particular ways. But we really cannot. Continue reading

Something You Need to Know About Me

I’ve been a Christian all my life. Between 2008 and 2012, however, owing to some difficult personal circumstances, I came within a hair’s breadth of giving up on Christian faith and religion altogether. Instead of that, and with nothing left to lose, I swept all my earlier beliefs and assumptions off the table and asked myself if there were any aspect of my former faith system that I felt I could not, in good conscience, abandon. I found there was one: the historicity of Jesus Christ.

I asked myself if there was any record of his life and teaching that I could depend on, at least rudimentarily. I determined there was no intellectual reason to reject the essence of the testimony of the Gospel writers. I made the subjective decision to regard the Gospels as fundamentally trustworthy records of the life of Jesus. I began to look at all of life, including my assumptions about God, through the lens of the life and teaching of Jesus. Continue reading

Introducing The Community of H-O-P-E

Let me be very clear. The Gathering for Worship in the Liturgical Tradition, which meets every other Saturday night in Plain City, Ohio, is not a church. The people who attend have not been recruited to participate in a church planting effort, nor is their association with an endeavor like that in the future either assumed or expected. Continue reading

Our Debt To St. Patrick

Like most Americans my age, I was introduced to the word Celtic as the name of Boston’s NBA franchise.  About twenty years ago, however, like most Americans my age, I learned two things.  First, the Boston team has been mispronouncing its own name (it should be “Keltic,” not “Seltic”).  And second, whatevCeltic-Tribes-in-Europeer the word Celtic meant, it had gained enormous popularity and commercial success.  Wherever I went, I ran into something Celtic—Celtic music, Celtic crosses, Celtic art and jewelry, Celtic spirituality.  Although the craze is subsiding a bit by now, the past twenty-five years have been mainly a boom time for all things Celtic.

In the centuries before Christ, the Celts occupied much of what is now central Europe, extending into Spain in the west and Turkey in the east. Many scholars believe that the Galatians, to whom Paul addressed his New Testament letter, were a part of this Celtic people group.

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Better Together

I’m an introvert. That is not news to anyone who knows me well, but it may surprise many who know me only through my public ministry. As an introvert, I don’t mind spending time alone. Many of those who know me best think that is a good thing. 🙂

Whereas extroverts (also spelled “extraverts”) thrive on social interaction and are energized by being with people, introverts like me find socializing, except with a small Introversion and Extroversionnumber of very close friends, stressful and energy-depleting. And yet it is an absolutely essential element in most public ministry, especially the pastorate.

When I was in seminary, I took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator for the first time. The MBTI is a questionnaire which measures personal preferences in the way individuals perceive the world and make decisions. One component of personality type which the instrument evaluates is the propensity toward introversion or extroversion. When my faculty advisor was reviewing with me the assessment of my responses to the MBTI questions, he looked at the results then at me and said, “Hmmm. An introvert in an extrovert’s job. Are you prepared for that?”

Continue reading